UAAP Basketball

No surprises: Super rookie RJ Abarrientos impresses in explosive UAAP seniors debut

JR Isaga
No surprises: Super rookie RJ Abarrientos impresses in explosive UAAP seniors debut

LIKE A VETERAN. FEU super rookie RJ Abarrientos goes on an early scoring spree.

UAAP Season 84 Media Team

FEU super rookie RJ Abarrientos quickly meets expectations as he leads the Tamaraws' burial of UST to kick off UAAP Season 84

MANILA, Philippines – In a debut two years in the making, UAAP rookie RJ Abarrientos wasted no time making a lasting first impression as his FEU Tamaraws obliterated the UST Growling Tigers, 76-51, in the first Season 84 game on Saturday, March 26.

In just 20 minutes off the bench, the nephew of basketball legend Johnny Abarrientos led the Tamaraw’s first-half beatdown of the Tigers with 14 of his 18 points in the first two quarters alone. Once he got going, UST simply had no answer on both ends of the floor as FEU mounted a 47-18 gap at intermission.

While first-time watchers may have been surprised with Abarrientos’ elite composure and shot creation, FEU fans and head coach Olsen Racela have likely been expecting such budding stardom from the super rookie the moment he transitioned to the seniors level.

“Was I surprised? No,” said Racela in Filipino after the game. “Everyone already knows what RJ can do. Probably the entire Philippines has already seen him. [But] he just needs to work out on a lot more things, and he knows that.”

Speaking like a seasoned pro to the press, Abarrientos expressed excitement after finally getting his first seniors game in the books following years of practice with the team.

“The preparations and the bond we made over the last few months with my coaches and teammates translated to this win,” he said in Filipino. “We just need to follow through with what we did on both offense and defense, be disciplined, and stick to the game plan.”

Even before debuting for the FEU seniors team, the 22-year-old spitfire guard already showed off his wares at the international level with Gilas Pilipinas.

At the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers, Abarrientos squeezed in exceptional averages of 8.3 points, 3.7 assists, and 1.3 rebounds in just 13.8 minutes of court time.

That international experience, he said, will prove crucial for his first season with the Tamaraws moving forward.

“With the experience of being a vocal leader for Gilas, that’s what I brought to FEU. I experienced the game at a high level with high intensity, and I adapted that for myself. I applied that to the team, and that’s the RJ you saw today.”  

Racela will likely ease his star ward to a bigger role as their campaign moves along on Tuesday, March 29, 1 pm, against the three-time defending champion Ateneo Blue Eagles. –